One of the fundamental and initially very controversial theories of classical physics is Boltzmann’s kinetic theory of gases. Instead of tracking the individual motion of billions of individual atoms it studies the evolution of the probability that a particle occupies a certain position and has a certain velocity. The equilibrium probability distributions are well known for more than a hundred years, but to understand whether and how fast convergence to equilibrium occurs has been very difficult. Villani (in collaboration with Desvillettes) obtained the first result on the convergence rate for initial data not close to equilibrium. Later in joint work with his student Mouhut he rigorously established the so-called non-linear Landau damping for the kinetic equations of plasma physics, settling a long-standing debate. He has been one of the pioneers in the applications of optimal transport theory to geometric and functional inequalities. He wrote a very timely and accurate book on mass transport.
Cédric Villani was born in 1973 in France. After studying mathematics at École Normale Supérieure in Paris from 1992 to 1996, he was appointed assistant professor there. He received his PhD in 1998. Since 2000 he has been a full professor at École Normale Supérieure de Lyon. He held semester-long visiting positions in Atlanta (1999), Berkeley (2004) and Princeton (2009), wrote about 50 research papers, and two reference books on optimal transport theory. In 2009 he was appointed director of the Institut Henri Poincaré (IHP) in Paris, and part-time visitor of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES).
The Fields Medal, awarded this year at the International Congress of Mathematicians 2010 (ICM) in Hyderabad, India, is the most important international prize in mathematics and is often called the ‘Nobel Prize in Mathematics.’ Between two and four mathematicians under the age of forty can be honored with the prize. Awarded every four years, the medal was first presented at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Oslo in 1936. The Fields Medal is made of gold and the award includes a cash prize of Canadian $15,000.
Villani is an editorial board member of Birkhäuser´s book series "Frontiers in Mathematics". This series is designed to be a repository for up-to-date research results which have been prepared for a wider audience. Graduates and postgraduates as well as scientists will benefit from the latest developments at the research frontiers in mathematics and at the "frontiers" between mathematics and other fields like computer science, physics, biology, economics, finance, etc.
He has been the director of the Institut Henri Poincaré (IHP) in Paris since 2009. The IHP and the Swiss Physical Society jointly edit the Journal "Annales Henri Poincaré". The goal of the journal is to serve the international scientific community in theoretical and mathematical physics by collecting and publishing original research papers meeting the highest professional standards in the field. The emphasis is on analytical theoretical and mathematical physics in a broad sense.